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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Web-Based Email -- GMail

AIM Mail, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and even Comcast.net Mail -- some are better for business, some for consumers, and all are quite useful.

For many of us, web-based e-mail services are a useful adjunct to our home inbox, allowing us to check e-mail while traveling and to privately communicate outside of corporate messaging. But a review of the latest web mail services shows that you can now consider foregoing desktop programs without compromising your communications flow.

If you think all web e-mail are pretty similar looking ducks, then Google's Gmail beta is a platypus. Google's entry into web-based e-mail leverages the company's expertise in search, but the unique message management features require a steeper learning curve than its competitors. (continued...)

Instead of using folders, Gmail users categorize messages by associating them with labels, such as "contracts' or "travel." Therefore, all e-mails stay in the inbox, unless you want to archive them. Messages that have been archived in the two gigabytes of free storage are still searchable through the All Mail folder.

Gmail reduces the clutter by displaying an e-mail message and its subsequent replies as single conversation -- think newsgroup posting -- with messages listed from oldest to newest. The most recent message lists the number of messages as well as any labels in a subject line that can get rather crowded.

With Gmail you can archive an entire conversation at once, which saves cleanup time after finishing a project. Messages cannot be sorted by name or date to find a piece of information, but instead Gmail offers Boolean searches to look for messages based on the body text, subject line, sender, or a date range.

Gmail also provides options for filtering messages based on several criteria. While these features allow you to control your messages with great precision, it can be difficult to navigate all of Gmail's options.

Gmail provides the standard contact management features you've come to expect from an e-mail client (spell checker, autocompleting contact names, importing addresses from Outlook), but there is no option for syncing data with an e-mail program or mobile device. Business users may be reluctant to move to Gmail due to its lack of a calendar.

Gmail is the only web e-mail service that has a reporting mechanism for forwarding e-mails suspected of being phishing ploys. However, Gmail's brute force approach to virus checking merely blocks all executable files.

Source: InformationWeek

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